A WORD BEFORE EXAMINATION
READING ~ ROMANS CHAPTER 6
We (the Berean Christadelphians) are under the law of Christ: that law requires of us not to baptize or receive into our fellowship those who do not believe the truth, on pain of being held responsible for their unbelief. Examination before baptism ascertains whether an applicant understands and believes the truth. The validity of baptism depends upon believing the truth. Examination implies a recognized basis of fellowship; that is, a definition of the doctrines set forth by the teachings of Christ and his apostles referred to in the New Testament as “the truth” (Note: A Guide to the Formation and Conduct of Christadelphian Ecclesias Nos. 33 & 34). This Truth is defined in A Statement of the Faith forming our Basis of fellowship (pg. 127, Doctrines to be rejected (pg. 130, the Commandments of Christ (pg. 132), and a Restatement (pg. 140) (which became necessary as a result of compromise and wrong doctrine of other fellowships).
In apostolic times, Jews and proselytes of the Jewish religion understood the promises made to the fathers and the things concerning the kingdom of God. Therefore their belief was shown by the simple stated belief that Jesus was the Christ. The apostles however warned that after their departure, a scheme of beliefs that were astray from the truth centered in the Name of Jesus Christ, i.e. the apostasy, would develop. As a result of this universal rejection of the truth, a simple confession of belief in Christ as in apostolic times could no longer be received. Therefore, as a matter of allegiance to Christ and defense of our own position, we must establish whether the applicant believes and is prepared to submit to the truth. The purpose of our conversation together before witnesses is not for you to demonstrate the truth by many quotations but to find out if you believe it. (Note: the commentary, questions and answers that follow are designed as both a summary of the things learnt in the course of preparing for baptism, and sample questions, some of which could be asked at a baptismal examination. Some of the questions are therefore far more important than others, forming the foundation of the gospel. The comments (in italics) are often deeper knowledge than what is required of the applicant for baptism, but is provided so as to stimulate the applicant’s interest in works such as Elpis Israel (by bro. John Thomas), The Blood of Christ, The Law of Moses (by bro. Roberts) and other related articles, which will greatly assist further Bible study. The commentary is also provided to help the Bible student understand the background to Clauses 5-12 of A Statement of the Faith forming our basis of fellowship regarding the essential subject of the Nature and Sacrifice of Christ. Although copious quotations are not required during a baptismal examination to establish an applicant’s conviction, they are supplied in this summary so that the earnest believer may see the scriptural evidence supporting “an answer of the hope that is in them.” (1 Peter 3:15).
At baptismal examinations, where circumstances permit, the Presiding Brother will read aloud to the ecclesia or assembled witnesses, the Baptism Applicant’s letter in which he/she expresses their conviction in the things concerning the kingdom of God and those things relative to the saving name of Jesus Christ, and a desire to become related to the covenant of promises through the waters of baptism. It is a most important letter - truly a matter of life and death as the Lord stated in Mark 16:15-16. This letter expresses his/her desire to submit to the commandments of God and it is that submission, which is counted for righteousness and union with Christ.
The seriousness of this undertaking is expressed by bro. Roberts: The Christadelphian Volume 8 1871:308-313.
“If the knowledge of truth fail to beget the new man in the heart of the sinner, the baptism following his knowledge is not a birth (2 Corinthians 5:17; John 3:3-6). It is a mere performance of no benefit to him, but rather to his condemnation. It ought, therefore, to be seriously considered by all who contemplate that step, and by all who are called upon to assist them, whether there is evidence of death to sin before arrangements are made for burial. The burial of a living man is cruelty. It were better for the sinner to leave God’s covenant alone than to make a mockery of it. Let him ponder well his state and his ways. “Let the sinner forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thought,” before he comes in this matter “to the Lord our God, who will abundantly pardon.” Let him “repent,” before he is baptised for the remission of sins. Then will he be received as a son with blessing, and his days guided unto life eternal—that is, if his circumspection continue.”